Cooper Deming was the kind of kid who caught the attention of parents, teachers and everyone he met. He had a sparkle in his eye, and his kind and unassuming demeanor instantly put others at ease. Cooper loved and excelled at sports of all kinds, especially baseball. He played it with incredible joy, passion and devotion and looked forward to the day he would wear the baseball uniform for the North High School Vikings. He loved the Colorado Rockies, the color purple, bacon cheeseburgers, camping and making s’mores. He hated fruit. And naps. And sitting still. He was soft-spoken and generous, and filled with joy. He loved life and really made the most of every day. He never slept later than 7am – he had too much to do. He was a dedicated friend, and a patient, protective and mischievous big brother to Calvin and Helen.
June 2, 2016, was no ordinary day for Cooper. It was the last day of school and the day before his 12th birthday. He was full of anticipation—of summer fun and new freedoms like spending days at the pool and riding around the neighborhood with his buddies. And of all the sports he would play.
But while trying out for a new soccer team, he didn’t play as well as usual due to a sudden sensation of double vision. He worried he wouldn’t make the team.
Next up was a baseball game, where he struggled and missed a few easy fly balls. We figured he was tired, or maybe he needed glasses. We didn’t worry. The next day, his birthday, he and 10 of his friends gathered on the front porch after school and we took them all to the pool, spending the rest of the day and night swimming and eating burgers. It was a great day. It was also the last day of normalcy.
The next morning was the start of a long odyssey that included weeks of visits to eye doctors, family physicians and ophthalmologists. And worsening double vision. It was unnerving and uncertain. We had no idea what we were dealing with until an MRI showed the unthinkable—a brain tumor with a type and location that ruled out both biopsy and surgical removal. That day our world came crashing down.
It crashed down many more times over the next 11 months.
Never Give Up
During that time, we lived by two mottos: First, “Leave no stone unturned.”
Looking for a solution, we sought second, and third, and fourth opinions from all over the country. We pursued alternative therapies, anything to make Cooper feel better and help him get better. Massage therapy, cannabis, physical therapy, guided meditation, vision exercises, occupational therapy. You name it, we tried it.
Our second motto: “Live life to the fullest.”
We took trips. To Mexico. To Phoenix for Rockies spring training where he met many of his favorite players. To Los Angeles and to San Francisco to watch the Rockies play. To his favorite place in the world—our mountain cabin in Tabernash. Friends visited often. Our neighborhood and school communities rallied and supported us with flash mobs, fundraisers, and homemade meals. His friends delivered a handmade baseball bat signed by his classmates. We had lots of parties.
Years earlier, Cooper and two close friends, Jackson and Gavin, started a Never Give Up club and had NGU shirts made. Cooper’s NGU attitude never wavered. It was humbling.
Throughout his grueling journey, Cooper bravely faced a variety of intensive treatments and therapies, including a series of 30 radiation treatments that summer and fall. A December MRI confirmed the tumor was smaller, giving us hope that our bright boy would be okay. But by April, Cooper’s balance issues and general weakness were advancing, and additional imaging confirmed the tumor was growing.
It was clear that Cooper would not get better. We focused on making him comfortable and on preparing ourselves and Helen and Calvin for the inevitable. Within a month, this deadly and inoperable brain tumor claimed his life. He took his last breath at home, in our arms, in the early hours of May 9, 2017. In the weeks after his death, an autopsy revealed that the tumor was a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG – an aggressive and incurable cancer that is underfunded and under researched.
Cooper missed out on so many life experiences. His first kiss. Learning to drive. Playing high school baseball. And so, so much more. No child should suffer the way Cooper did. No siblings should have to watch their beloved big brother succumb. No family should be left without options.
That is why pediatric cancer research is so important. That is why we ride, to honor Cooper and all the kids and families affected by this terrible disease, and to raise money so that others may have a brighter future.